ERIC JAMES / ENDCASTLE

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EndCastle: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / Spotify

1. Take me through that luscious rig of yours.

Guitar: 2014 Gibson Firebird

Pedals: Dunlop 535q Multi-Wah > EarthQuaker Devices BitCommander > ToneBone Hot British > ZVEX Box of Rock > Boss RV5 Reverb > Boss DD7 > TC Electronic Flashback > TSVG Emperor > Mad Professor Ruby Red Booster > TC Electronic Spark Boost > TC Electronic Poly Tune

Amp: Music Man RD100

Cabinet: Hand built by my buddy, Frank Andrews. It has 2 12″ Warehouse speakers.

I have a lot of distortion options on my set up and they all sound different. I usually use two of them at the same time. I can go from Skynyrd-style distortion to Dimebag Darrell distortion really quick. I recently picked up the BitCommander, which makes some incredible sounds. It sounds like a synth at times. I haven’t found a use in any of our songs for it but I cant wait to use it in one. For now I just use it for sound effects. I love my TC Electronic Poly Tuner. A lot of people don’t like the idea of it or are scared of it or say it doesn’t work but I have had lots of success. My old boss TU2 I couldn’t see during daytime shows at all, I think they fixed that on the TU3 though. My Poly Tuner pedal is so bright and clear its unbeatable, and once you get used to it, you just strum all the strings at once and it tells you if one is sharp or flat, it makes quick work of tuning in between songs or even during.

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2. Diggin’ the assortment of pedals on the board: I noticed you have two delays on your board — what is each for and why did you choose those two to use?

I use the Boss DD7 for just basic delay use. It has a built-in tap tempo that I’ll use. It is a powerhouse delay that I under-utilize however, only because it is a pain to get down on the floor and mess with the dials during a show. I like to just set it and forget it.

The Flashback delay is also a powerhouse – I wish I had bought the big boy one – the Flashback X4, which has presets and whatever else you need. I use the Flashback for modulated delays. It has a mode for Reverse which does exactly what it says, believe it or not. I go back and forth between the Reverse and the Lo-fi mode. The Lo-fi also does what the name says, it roughens up the sound of the delays and sounds like an old low-fi Beck cassette.

More often than not, I have both the DD7 and the Flashback going at the same time. It works great when clean or distorted. Most of the times I’ll use it clean with the DD7 on and the Flashback delay set on reverse and the notes ring out with a ghostly delay that creeps up back on the note again.

3. Same question with the boosters: Why use both a Ruby Red and a Spark?

The Spark has been on my set up for a few years now and will never leave. It’s a great little boost that I can use for solos to bring my level up a bit. A nice feature with the Spark is that you can either click it on and click it off like a normal pedal, or if you hold your foot down on the switch – it activates – and when you take your foot off, it will turn off right away, so it helps prevent my treestump feet from tripping up on stage, which still happens often.

The Ruby Red is kind of on loan to me from Jesse [Kling, guitarist in Dead Feather Moon]. I use it as a treble boost. I don’t run any EQ pedals and so my Firebird can at times sound more like a Crow when I don’t have any pedals going — so this adds a nice treble boost. It’s a night-and-day difference really and since I received it, I have had it turned on pretty much non stop. I used it in the studio on two tracks recently, and it is the only pedal in use I think for one of the songs.

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4. I remember talking with you about your guitars one time and you mentioned the Firebird was like the worst guitar ever built. But you’ve got it in your rig — why is that?

I have a weird relationship with the Firebird — anyone who has played in a band with me knows it. They are great guitars, but mine was a lemon, and Gibson was no help. Around the time I purchased my guitar, I noticed that a few of my guitar heroes were quietly switching from Gibson. Zakk Wylde, for example, who is known for his massive Gibson collection and signature Gibson guitars, all of a sudden cut ties with them and launched his own brand. Now as we all know, Gibson is dealing with bankruptcy issues. I feel like it is because their quality has gone way down.

I wanted a Firebird ever since seeing the Def Leppard “Hysteria” album tour videos as a kid; 15 years later I finally got one. I should have backed away from the deal when the ‘Big Guitar Store’ employee couldn’t figure out how to tune it, nearly twisting the wrong end of the tuner off, and wouldn’t take my advice of turning the tuning knobs on the back of the head stock. Shortly down the road, it would have tuning, electrical, and cosmetic issues. As soon as I’d fix a problem, another would pop up. I want to point out that the Steinberger Tuners they used for only about one year on the Firebird are both incredible and also the worst thing to go on a Gibson. If one breaks, which they do, you cant just buy one you have to buy the whole pack of 6. Steinberger went out of business and Gibson would not tell me what I was supposed to do with my broken tuner. I had to look on eBay dozens of times per day because apparently it was in high demand, but there weren’t many out there. If it did pop up it would be a pack of 6 for almost $500. I got super lucky one day, months later, and only had to pay $50.

I remember one night throwing my guitar against a tree at an outdoor party that my cover band played, it has honestly played better since that night. I’ll occasionally go back and forth between it and my Telecaster and my SG, but the Firebird fits on me much better and Ill never get rid of it.

5. Love the cabinet you’re playing through: Looks like one of those old Marshall 4×12” tall boys. Surely it must be a pain to haul that around — why not play a smaller combo and mic it live?

It looks massive, but really isn’t too bad. My buddy Frank, who I used to play with (he now plays in SD’s best Black Crowes tribute band The Black Crowes Revival) built it for me. It has two 12″ Warehouse speakers. Really nothing special inside there but it makes a good sound. The top speaker is angled up to my head so I can hear it at shows where we don’t have monitors. I have often thought about a smaller combo and I used to have smaller combos but I like that it is tall so it’s easy for me to turn knobs during the show or more importantly set my beer on top of it so I don’t have to bend down and pick it up.

I really do think there is a sound benefit – although during shows the mic might not pick that up. In practice, it sounds great. Jason from The Bad Vibes has a small Music Man combo that sounds huge however. Also having smaller amps on stage with me makes me feel like I’m in Spinal Tap during the Stonehenge scene — I’m always stepping on whatever is rolling around on stage, so that also explains the big tall cabinet.

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6. I also had a Music Man head for a while and loved it. Where’d you find yours? What do you like about it? Have you had any problems with it, being vintage and all?

I found mine at Moze Guitars in La Mesa. I played Kyle Areford’s [from The Paragraphs, Dead Feather Moon] Music Man and knew I had to copy him and get my own. It took a long time to find but it popped up on the Moze Instagram and I drove down the next day and bought it. I like it so much because I am able to get a tight solid distortion out of it if I want, or I can switch to clean channel and have a warm clean sound with as much built-in reverb as I want. It sounds like a mix of Fender and Marshall to my ears. I think my amp was built in the early ‘80s. The only problem I have had is with the foot switch, but it’s aftermarket so it’s not the amps fault. It’s built like a tank. Kyle and I have had to take his apart to fix it and it took both of us to lift the guts up and put them back in the head.

7. Fun question: If a pedal manufacturer approached you and wanted to build a signature Eric James pedal — what brand would you want it to be, what features would it have, what would you name it, and why?

You’re right, that is a fun question. I don’t know if this would even sound good, but maybe EarthQuaker Devices will read this and be inspired: I want to be able to have a delay/tremolo thing where you can use an expression to slow the speed of it down or speed it up. I have the MiniMoog MF Tremolo that has the expression pedal so you can pretty much do what I described, and I’ve tried it with delays, but I just can’t come close to the sound I’m trying to make. So that would be cool, but realistically if the day ever came to make my own signature ERJ pedal, it would just be a big box with a bunch of lights on it, no effects or anything — just the little led lights all over it that turn on and off because I love lights.

8. What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve ever owned and why? Conversely, what’s the best?

The only thing that comes to mind is the Boss Metal Zone. I guess it has its use somewhere, and everyone likes their sounds but on my set up it sounded like garbage. I ended up selling it to a guy who collected them and had many Metal Zones for some reason.

I think my Music Man RD100 head is the best amp I’ve owned. Its built like a tank. It gets super loud but I am usually able to get a good sound at lower volume.

Not the best — but my favorite piece of gear is my Boss RV5 Digital Reverb. I bought it from Steve Stevens of Billy Idol. It makes some great hall reverb that doesn’t sound like anything an amp reverb could do. I use it often now in our songs.

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9. Wait…you bought a pedal from Steve Stevens? WTF?

[haha] The story isn’t as fun [as you’d think]. Steve Stevens is one of my most influential musicians. Occasionally he sells his personal gear on his website (his Premier Guitar Rig Rundown video is incredible by the way). I was lucky enough to catch one of his sales and that’s how I got it. He autographed it to me and included a Steve Stevens playing card and some of his signature picks with his ray gun logo. I also hit him up one day asking a question about how he recorded one of his guitar tracks and he wrote right back — he’s a great guy!

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10. That’s straight up awesome. Speaking of awesome — you’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re always scoping out what everyone’s using: Who do you think has the most awesome gear?

I can’t remember the last time that I went to a show and didn’t come home wanting to buy new gear because of whoever played that night. There’s no shortage of great guitar setups and guitar players in San Diego or traveling through on tour.

Jesse, from Dead Feather Moon, has my favorite sound. Between his gear and his playing style, he definitely has a unique sound that really comes to life when he plays live. He’s a wizard when it comes to his gear. Also Daniel “Cuervo” Cervantes from Mrs. Henry and 10 other bands. I remember one night being blown away at one of their Belly Up shows at how great his sound was, and he explained it was just his cheap Acoustic amp. [Read Cervantes’ own Gear and Loathing feature here to find out more about his rig]

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(Photo by Moses Namkung)

11. If money was no object, and you could buy any piece of equipment on the planet for one of your bandmates — what would you buy, who would you get it for, and why?

Dennis, our frontman/singer/guitar player extraordinaire, is one of the craziest, most expressive guitar players and songwriters I’ve ever met. I would get the guy who made Matt Bellamy’s crazy guitars [Hugh Manson, from Manson Guitar Works] with the built-in midi pad and what not, and have him make Dennis something even better. Also I’d have to get him a Theremin because he knows how to use those things.

12. What does EndCastle have coming up?

We’re stoked to be playing with Bosswitch and M. Crane at The Merrow on Thursday, July 26th. After that, we are playing on August 18th at Manhattan Bar and August 19th at Aztec Brewery. We are slowly recording songs at Emerald Age Recording, so we will have a few more songs up on our Spotify page soon. We’re working on new artwork and merch; I’d really like to make some EndCastle pogs.

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JOAQUIN TORRES / FUTURE HUMAN

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Future Human: Facebook / Bandcamp

1) Tell me about the stuff in these photos: Are you using all this stuff live, or is this for recording too? Is there anything you might be replacing, or adding soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig?

My main guitar that I’m using is a white Fender Hendrix Stratocaster made in Mexico.  And I run that into a Vox AC30 and run the preamp section into a Marshall 4×12″ cabinet (depending on the size of the show).

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The effects I use from [left to right; top to bottom]: Stone Deaf Tremotron /// Eventide H9 /// Boss Cp1-x compressor /// Zvex Loop gate /// Boss TU3S Tuner /// Empress Echosystem /// Chase Bliss Brothers /// Black Arts Toneworks Pharoah Supreme /// Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler /// Meris Ottobit /// Ibanez De-7 Delay /// Boss ES-8 /// Digitech Freqout.

I’m always trying out new gear and new stuff that comes out. So while this is my board that I’ve used for recording and I’m using live, there’s some stuff that will probably change, yeah. I haven’t really been using the Z-Vex Loop Gate all that much so I might stick something else on there. I’ve been really interested in Rainger Effects’ new reverb or throwing my Deep Space Pulsar pedal on my board and use it for my synths. If there was one fixture on my board I’d probably say it’s the H9 just because it can do multiple effects in one algorithm. I’m pretty happy with it but one day I might just redo everything and not keep anything from this board’s build, I don’t know…

 

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2) Your pedalboard is fucking insanity. What are a couple of your particular favorite pedals that you can’t do without – and explain why? Do ever wish you had a smaller board? Do you think you’ll ever put a smaller, separate board together? 

If I had to pick my favorites at the moment, it would probably be the Empress Echosystem and the Digitech Freqout. The Echosystem is a delay machine. It’s got a bunch of different kinds of delays. It’s probably my go-to pedal when I’m just jamming because it’s one of those pedals that is very easy to use and I’m always finding new sounds that can come out of it. I think it could be nice to have a smaller board. I’ve never been able to actually do it though. I’ve always had about this size of a board. I used to have a board that was just ridiculous! (hahaha!) It was probably 2 1/2 times the size in length and was double-tiered in the back row. But I mean, the shit was ridiculous to gig with as you could probably imagine. If I did go smaller, I would just use my H9, Echosystem, and Chase Bliss Brothers or BAT Pharoah……if I had to.

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3) Talk to me about that H9 pedal — I don’t know much about them except that you can program a bunch of different pedals/sounds into it right? What do you use yours for?

It’s an everything box of effects. It can only run one algorithm at a time, but some of the algorithms contain multiple effects within one algorithm. I mostly use it for big reverbs, big walls of sound, modulation, and pitch shifting. There’s even a song I use it to make my guitar sound like a bass in a part of the song. I definitely will be digging deeper into this guy on our new material we’re writing.

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4) How do you like that Hendrix Strat? I’ve never been able to bond with a Strat (I’m more of a Gibson guy). What drew you to that guitar? 

I bought it slightly used for pretty cheap. No problems with it really. I first learned guitar on a Strat and then went to a Gibson Les Paul, that I still own. I like both, really. Strats are prone to a lot of noise issues and tuning problems but I just like the tone of the guitar especially with the reverse bridge pickup and the feel of the guitar. But like I said, I might want to change it up for a while and rock something else for a bit.

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5) Talk to me about that Organelle? It’s some type of synth or sampler, right? What do you use it for and what do you like most about it?

Yeah, it’s an Organelle. It’s such a deep piece of gear. Technically, it can pretty much do anything if programmed. I’m pretty sure it’s like a Linux computer that runs “pure data,” which is a computer language used to make algorithms for like a synth, a sampler, an effects engine, a lighting controller, whatever you want it to do. I’m not super knowledgeable about how to build pure data patches but there’s a huge community that do that share these patches. Anyways, I love it! I use it as a secondary instrument usually, and that’s why it’s awesome: you’re not limited to one instrument or one specific type of synthesis.

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6) I’ve gotta ask about the Deep Mind: Have you played any of the synths that are similar to it? What are some pros and cons (if any) about it? If you had a bunch of money to blow on a new synth — what would you get?

Not many, no. I still have a lot to learn on this front. Coming from guitar, and the world of effects, and venturing into making electronic music, I became interested in synths and started getting into this type of sound design, even though I wish I was a better player. There’s a lot to like about the Deep Mind honestly.  The price, the voice count, the effects the semi-modular design. To me, it sits really nicely in a dense mix, and isn’t overbearing, especially when Matt, our synth player, has a Korg Minilogue and I think it sounds most similar to vintage Roland synths but it truly is a chameleon. I was surprised at how good you can make the thing sound for the price. I think it is super underrated.  Especially when you consider I’ve gotten tones that sound amazing that emulate vintage synths without even using the effects engine section or modulation matrix at all! If there is one con, I’d say that I wish it was multi-timbral out of the box without having to polychain it to another DeepMind, but that’s what I use the Organelle for usually.
Hmmm…That’s a tough one. There’s so many cool older synths I would love to mess around with and there’s always new stuff coming out.  But if money was no issue and neither was space, I’d love to get my hands on a Waldorf Quantum or Arturia’s Matrixbrute.

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7) What’s the shittiest piece of gear you’ve bought and why did it suck? On the flipside, what’s the raddest piece of gear you’ve bought and why is it so great?

I used to have a Line 6 Uber Metal pedal that was pretty bad. It was just too overbearing and it was really hard to find a place where it didn’t stick out in a bad way.  The most disappointing piece of gear I’ve had was when I was in a guitar-synth phase and I had a Roland GR20 and GR33. I could never get used to the feel of it. As much as I wanted it to sound good — and don’t get me wrong it was cool sometimes — it wouldn’t track very well and it would always happen at the worst times (hahahaha)! Other than that, over the years, there hasn’t been too many pieces of gear that I didn’t like. I’ve usually let go of stuff because they were either too one note, or my musical interests had changed.

8) What’s coming up for Future Human? 

I’m super excited to announce we will be entering the studio very soon to begin work on our debut EP! We also have a rad show coming up at The Merrow on Tuesday, June 5th (get info here) with Blacks Beach Boys and The Gorgeous Boyscouts — big thanks to you and 91X’s Tim Pyles for putting the show together!

BRETT PATTERSON / THE WHISKEY CIRCLE

The Whiskey Circle: Facebook / Website / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

Comment below, on the Gear and Loathing Facebook page, or email gearandloathinginsandiego@gmail.com to be entered to win a pair of tickets to The Whiskey Circle’s EP release show at the Music Box on June 23!

1. Tell me about your current rig: For example, why do you use the gear you’re currently using? Best parts? Worst parts?

I guess it all depends on which rig we’re talking about? My main project is The Whiskey Circle with my wife Leanna, but I also play my upright bass for some local bands when needed and produce instrumentals with my brother in a project we call “Dream Queen.” For The Whiskey Circle, I play drums and keys at the same time. I’d prefer to just have separate people playing their own instruments, but at one point The Whiskey Circle was just a 2-piece and we felt the need for something more than guitar and drums. I was inspired by Shovels & Rope for the basic drum kit and keyboard combo.

For the most part, the drum kit I use is a Gretsch Catalina Club that we refer to as “Beetlejuice.” However, the 26″ kick in that Gretsch kit takes up too much space on the road and my Roland Juno kept falling off the top of it. So now I use a 22″ kick that came with a no-name, made-in-Japan kit that I scored off CL for $5. When I play live, I never play with more than a kick, snare and floor tom. When we record, I’ll mix the two kits together (13” and 14” rack toms and 16” and 18” floor toms) and make a 6-piece kit with the 26″ Gretsch kick to get that boom. When we play live, I always use small cymbals (Paiste 13″ hi-hats, 14″ thin crash and 20″ light ride), when we record I like to add a second ride and stereo crashes. My goal when playing for The Whiskey Circle is to always be quieter than Leanna’s vocals and let her be the focus of the song. When there’s a voice like hers in the band, it should never be drowned out by the instruments.

For the “organ” part of the rig, I currently use a Roland Juno Alpha-2 with a Behringer reverb/delay/echo pedal and a Marshall overdrive pedal through an Acoustic B20 bass amp for the low end. The pedals help the Juno not sound like a 1985 MIDI synth (which it is and why I originally bought it), but more like the organ on all of our recordings, a 1976 Kimball Entertainer.

Another cool thing about The Whiskey Circle is the other guitar player, Collin Webb, and I switch between drums and guitar throughout the set. The whole musical chairs thing started back when Daniel Cervantes was playing with us and he wanted to play drums on some tracks (if you didn’t know Dan is a drummer too then you’re missing out). It’s also really hard for me to sing the songs I wrote on guitar while playing drums and organ. Collin and I combine our pedals (although most of them are his) to get what you see in the picture. A lot of cool delays, shifters, modulars, fuzz and most importantly that Boss tuner. Collin plays that red Fender tele and I play Leanna’s daphne blue Mustang. Collin and I both play through his 12″ Fender Blues Jr.

Lastly, you’ll see the two fender basses and the Orange 1×12. Bass is my first instrument and my first love. I’ve recorded the bass for all of The Whiskey Circle tracks in the past and was playing bass in the band originally. My main live bass is the white reissue Fender Musicmaster with new Seymour Duncan pickups. My other bass is a P bass that was pieced together from CL parts: Squier P bass neck, MIM body, DIY surf green pick guard and pickups out of a 1971 American. This is the bass that has been recorded on all of The Whiskey Circle tracks. It needs some TLC as some of the higher frets are not quite right, but if you know how to make it work, then it’s the best thing ever. The Orange amp is a newer 1×12 Crush that was upgraded to 100w, new Jensen speaker and a 3″ tweeter installed to pick up some of the highs when we use the Bass Muff. It’s plenty loud enough to compete with the 12″ fender blues amps we all play with. This is the amp that our bass player uses live.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?

This is the demo version of one of the tracks off the new High Deserts EP called “Beaches.” It’s a song about everything I love: Leanna, CA, decriminalizing weed and riding bikes/motorcycles. It’s the first track that I’ve engineered and recorded everything on. Every piece of musical equipment that we own was recorded on the track (all three guitars through the Fender Blues Jr.) and also a Fender Champion (not pictured since we never use it live), the P bass and the Musicmaster (yes double bass tracks are the shit), and the Gretsch kit. It was definitely a pain multi-tracking by myself, but in the end, I think the track has a really nice “if the Velvet Underground hung out with The Blank Tapes in OB” sort of vibe.

 

 

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy?

I want everything in this video, but most importantly Jack Bruce’s Gibson EB complete with still-lit cigarette burning on the headstock.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

Gear-wise, I would say Kurt Vile.

Music production/badassery-wise, I would say Dave Grohl. He’s from the DC area like me (we had the same HS PE teacher) and he played drums in 2 of my favorite bands, Scream and Nirvana. Not to mention his philosophy on drumming, like my favorite drummer (Ringo), is the best thing ever.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

We are about to release our High Deserts EP via Wiener Records on June 17 with a music video and tour to help promote. [INFO] Our official EP Release Show is Thursday, June 23, at The Music Box with Jimmy Ruelas, Bad & The Ugly and Gary Hankins & the Summer Knowledge. [INFO/TICKETS]